Helping Boys Read: Middle School Reading Strategies

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The Trouble With Boys…

Peg Tyre recently published the book The Trouble With Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do. The title adequately describes the gist of the book, but let me be the first to say that this “report card” on our poorly performing male population came as no surprise to me. Tyre isn’t off the mark when she insists that our current school set-up caters to females. As a teacher, I have been guilty for creating an uneven playing field for my male Reading students.

Boys and Books

As a Middle School Reading teacher, I have noticed that it is much easier for girls to become engaged in non-fiction books than it is for boys. Why? Well, for one, I am a female and I pick out our curriculum, and I can also recommend to my students a slew of books that I have read and personally enjoy. When it comes to books, females tend to like the same stuff as other females and vice-versa for boys. Naturally, a female teacher will not understand what captivates the attention of the male brain.

Female Preference Influences Curriculum

Let’s face it, a vast majority of elementary and middle school teachers are female, and our curriculum tends to mirror our own interests, especially in Reading and English classes. In our writing prompts, we assign topics that involve exploring feelings, character motivation, etc. - things that boys (and grown men) abhor and avoid at all costs. Naturally, girls will excel at such topics because we are hard-wired to talk about how we feel and can intuitively decipher why a character in a book or short story might feel the way that they do. Books that we read are also of a sensitive, self-exploring theme that boys just can’t relate to and don’t even attempt to understand.

Helping our Male Students

There are several things a female teacher can do to help lessen the interest gap for her male students. First and foremost, we must recognize the problem and create awareness of the divide. Boys will not change who they are physically or mentally just because the realms of Education are dominated by females. We must become proactive in balancing the already tipping scale for our male students.